Partying. While we are all here to get an education, there is another aspect of college that some look forward to more than others.
When one is young and finally free of hovering parents, it is only natural to want to explore the nightlife in Bellingham, both downtown and at house parties. As a result, freshman seem to always find a way to drink alcohol, whether it is purchased by friends, family or perhaps even by someone who owns a fake identification card.
Lieutenant Bob Vander Yacht, the police spokesperson for the Bellingham Police Department, believes the major spike in fake ID usage happened between the years of 2010 and 2011 when online companies began to produce “frighteningly accurate documents” that could then be purchased by minors.
The police department has been working with local businesses to weed out false identification from bars and nightclubs.
“When you query novelty identification, you can get results that get pretty original looking documents for $50 to $100, and that’s a real daunting task because the quality is really good and it’s very similar to what is available legitimately,” Vander Yacht said. “What we’re doing more than anything else is education for the bar owners and bar staff.”
The Western Front was able to contact multiple fake ID owners. Their names were replaced with aliases in order to protect their identities.
“I think a lot of people are upset of the fact that every other country in the world has lower drinking standards than we do, and I feel like kids just view it as an acceptable route.”
Junior Ethan Flanagan
Junior "Ricky Bobby," 21, bought three fake IDs in case he got a couple taken away.
“I have this friend who lives in Hawaii, and he knew a guy and he gave me his e-mail,” Bobby said. “[The seller of fake IDs] had a name he went under and had a list of prices and what state [you could buy]. All of them had different attributes; some of them were holographic. I got one from Montana that had my face, and my real name and everything, and I just sent him a picture over the internet. I got it in a month.”
Not only did Bobby purchase three copies, but when he got two taken away at the bars, his supplier sent him three more copies of his fake ID for free. It didn’t take long before Bobby lost two of them; one at The Underground and another at Bellingham Bar and Grill.
“At The Underground, they just laughed at me,” Bobby said. “The dude was just a little buff guy, and he was like, ‘Valiant effort bro, see you later.’ But then the guy at BBG, he pulled me aside and was just like, ‘Listen, you can either just let me confiscate this, or, if it’s real, I can bring the police over here and they can handle it.’ So, I was just like, ‘Whatever, I’ve got more copies, you can keep it,’” Bobby said.
Those extra copies, however, lead Bobby into even more trouble.
“One time over winter break, I was going to the bars and got way too drunk,” Bobby said. “I got super plastered, and I got a citation for an minor in possession, but I was so drunk that I gave the police officer the fake ID.”
Bobby was able to make a plea deal that allowed the fake ID to be forgotten and, despite all of the trouble that having an illegal piece of plastic, he says that he would still do it all over again. This isn’t the case for junior “Champagne Mami,” 20, who went through a similar situation of losing her fake.
“It’s really scary, and you can get in a lot of trouble. I’m kind of scared that the Liquor Control Board is going to come and find me,” Mami said. “Honestly, I would have been fine just waiting another year. I wish I would have because I spend $100 on it and I didn’t get $100 worth out of it.”
Mami used a website titled “fakeyourdrank.com” to obtain her ID. She found out about the website through one of her roommates who had purchased an ID from the site.
“I was super sketched out because I knew a ton of people who have got them and sent their money in and not got the ID or got jipped and got a thing in the mail that’s like a piece of crap, and you’re like, ‘I paid $200 for this,’” Mami said.
In order to purchase the ID, Mami had to get a bitcoin, which is defined as a type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank. According to an article from the Bloomberg View, “Criminals, it turns out, really like bitcoins, which can be exchanged for nefarious purposes on the ‘Dark Web,’ with complete anonymity and, it seems, impunity.”
On the website, you are greeted with a colorful background picture of a booth at a bar with text over it stating that the website is the “premium source for all fake IDs” and a giant button in the center asking the visitor to “ORDER NOW.”
Prices of ID’s range from $80 to $125, and cards are available from 16 states total. Each card is supposed to ensure that it will pass the tests of an advanced scanner; microprint; and ultraviolet and multispec holograms or ultraviolet and optically variable ink hologram blacklight tests with some exceptions.
"I got one from Montana that had my face, and my real name and everything, and I just sent him a picture over the internet. I got it in a month.”
Junior "Ricky Bobby"
For some, fake ID cards may seem like a dream come true, but to junior Ethan Flanagan, they seem to be more trouble than they are worth when used for entrance into bars or clubs.
“Without fake IDs I don’t really oppose people drinking alcohol, but when fake IDs are involved, you start bringing other people into it,” Flanagan said. “There is a risk to not only the person with the fake ID, but the person selling [alcohol] and also the establishment, but I don’t really see anything wrong with people getting beer at a store.”
Vander Yacht believes that a big part of the issue is the immaturity and lack of understanding from the minors who are now being thrown into a setting that they are unfamiliar with.
“There’s something about drinking behavior that’s a little bit learned, and when young people go in and they don’t understand the environment that they’re in, they can cause a lot of problems and suddenly a fight breaks out or something happens that just wouldn’t happen with people that are a little more understanding of what’s acceptable,” Vander Yacht said.
Though minors can try and try again, the validity of a fake ID is never 100 percent ensured. While liquor stores and gas stations seem to be lacking in the screening process of IDs, clubs and bars have been doing their due diligence. "Daenerys Targaryen," a junior who got her fake ID in September of 2013, had it taken away the first time she ever used it at a bar, The Underground.
Bellingham Bar and Grill is another hub that meticulously checks IDs. Both Bobby and Mami had their IDs taken away at BBG. For Mami, it was her first time trying her ID at a bar.
“BBGs is the first place I used it [where] they blacklighted it and said, ‘this is fake, get out of here.’ I held out my hand like he was going to give it back, and he didn’t,” Mami said. “He was like, ‘I’m going to keep this.’ I was so sad.”
Every Washington State official driver’s license has three state seals in a row that show up under UV lighting. Mami's ID only had two and a half, which immediately alerted the bouncer that her ID was fake.
Since purchasing alcohol or marijuana with a fake identification card is illegal, the punishment is as follows:
“For any person under the age of 21 years to represent his or her age as being 21 or more years for the purpose of purchasing liquor or securing admission to, or remaining in any area classified by the board as off-limits to such a person … A violation of this section is a gross misdemeanor punishable as provided by RCW 9A.20.021 except that a minimum fine of $2,500 shall be imposed.”
Knowing all of the trouble that one could get in, it would be common to think that minors would be smarter about their alcohol obtaining choices or just wait until it was legal for them. Targaryen believes that the want for alcohol in college is so high because it’s just part of the culture here. She also believes that fake IDs are an attractive option because there isn’t a Greek system here at Western which makes it harder for minors to obtain alcohol.
Flanagan, on the other hand, believes that it is more of an “accepted” form of rule-breaking or rebellion.
“I think a lot of people are upset of the fact that every other country in the world has lower drinking standards than we do, and I feel like kids just view it as an acceptable route,” Flanagan said.